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And, another question

Thank you all for putting up with & answering my questions! I'm getting pretty worn down this week with all the final electronic details - it seems like they never end!!

Anyhow, I see that Amazon has an unlocked 32 gb GSM fire phone on sale for $179 on Prime. Would this phone be able to take the T-Mobile chip for the $50 international plan that many of you have or have suggested?

I know my AT&T plans will be very expensive; my iPhone 5 camera isn't the best; and the fire phone would give me another year of Prime for free plus unlimited cloud storage for pics and videos taken with this phone.

This first trip might do me in with all the little details. After all of this, we had better go back to Europe every year!!!

Posted by
4686 posts

You can get much cheaper T-Mobile-compatible phones than this one (not sure if it will work or not), if you already have an iPhone and will use a T-Mobile phone only in Europe. There are some cheapo prepaid T-Mobile phones for $50-ish or even less that will work as a "regular" T-Mobile phone (I have one of those myself).

Better yet than buying a new phone, why not use your iPhone in Europe? Is it unlocked? If so, you can buy a local SIM for it for local calls and data. If not unlocked, ask AT&T if they will unlock it for you.

If you want to receive US phone calls in Europe, there are some tricks you can use to avoid paying AT&T anything. One is to sign up for a Skype account and buy a US phone number - $18 for three months or $60 a year. That lets you receive unlimited inbound calls on the US phone number but no outbound calls (you can either buy Skype credit to make them - pretty cheap per minute but in $10 blocks for credit - or look for some sort of per-month unlimited calling with Skype). Then you can use Skype on your iPhone to make US phone calls or receive them in Europe. You wouldn't use any data while connected to WiFi.

To receive calls from your AT&T cell number, you should be able to just forward those calls while you are traveling to your Skype US phone number. I don't know what AT&T's policy for forwarding calls is; each carrier is different, but they should give you at least some forwarding minutes free, maybe unlimited, not sure.

One big benefit of using your iPhone of course is that you can still keep your existing contacts, you already know how to use the phone, etc.

Posted by
4686 posts

Just remember: if you do wind up signing up for T-Mobile (if you get a new phone), you want a POST-PAID ("normal") cell phone service with T-Mobile, not PRE-PAID. That is, you sign up for new service like you are going to pay a monthly fee to T-Mobile, just like you do now with AT&T, but once you get back from Europe, you have to cancel the plan to avoid paying the next month's service.

And the name of the T-Mobile plan you would want is "Simple Choice." It's a domestic calling plan that includes the international roaming you want.

Posted by
193 posts

Andrew H - the SKYPE option sounds good - but would I only be able to make calls via wi-fi? And same for incoming calls? If someone calls using the Skype number and I'm not on wi-fi, would it connect via roaming on AT&T's network?

Should my phone stay in airplane mode? Will wi-fi work if so?

Although I am familiar with my iPhone - I really don't have a good grasp on using it outside the USA. Even on cruises or in the Caribbean, I usually buy an AT&T package that is a waste of money for a week vacation just in case I need to be reached.

The AT&T international option of just adding texting I liked, now they have different plans - none of which have worked for me.

T-Mobile is not a good carrier where I live and they have spots that will drop calls so I've never considered them. But they have something smart going with that Simple Plan - even better than Eurobuzz which my parents used a few years ago for phone calls.

My daughter uses Skype a lot with her friends (who live within a two mile radius) so I may have to ask her for a tutorial.

I just am never sure if I keep my phone on airplane mode and if so, how wi-fi will work.

Posted by
4686 posts

In order for Skype to work, your phone must be on the internet somehow. Obviously WiFi will do that but also if you buy a local SIM card in Europe, you could get one that includes some data, too. Mobile data with a local SIM puts you on the internet without WiFi. (But with this option, your phone must be unlocked, as I said earlier.) If you replace your AT&T SIM card with a local SIM card, then no AT&T roaming would apply.

If you don't go the local SIM route, then you would still have your AT&T SIM installed. It sounds like, if you don't pay for an international package with AT&T, then your phone may simply not work at all in Europe - which may be what you want to avoid the costs - but if it still registers with a local mobile network, you could go into settings on the phone and simply take it off, I believe.

And if you don't go the local SIM route - yes, you'd be limited to WiFI-only use of the phone with Skype for voice, with other services for texting.

Airplane mode disables mobile networks, data, and perhaps WiFi, but you can then enable WiFi separately while still in airplane mode, I believe. Then you'd be able to use Skype.

You can install the Skype app for free on your phone right now. The free option doesn't let you call phones, only other phones or computers that are on Skype. You can try this: install Skype (includes setting up an account), then put the phone into airplane mode, then enable WiFi. Then try to call your daughter (not via a phone number - "call" her on her computer or her Skype-enabled phone). Connecting to someone on Skype not using a phone is free but also a tad more complicated; you must have them add you as a contact first, but your daughter can probably help you with that.

If you get the above to work, then try using Skype again using your phone's data plan and not WiFi. This will simulate how it will work in Europe if you buy a local SIM card and use its data plan for Skype calls.

Posted by
4956 posts

advocate care just how much do you plan on using the phone? I used ATT international plan last couple of trips and since I used the phone minimally, and cancelled the plan immediately on return, it only cost about $30 each time.

Posted by
4686 posts

You can also explore getting a Google Voice number. Google Voice is a free service Google offers whereby they will give you a free US phone number and includes voicemail...but it's not exactly the same as Skype. You need to have it forward calls to some existing phone number or service when signing up. But once you do that, you can make/receive free calls with Google Voice on your phone. In Europe, you will have to use Google Hangouts to make phone calls. I have used Google Voice for years but haven't used it with Google Hangouts on my phone.

The big benefit of Google Voice/Google Hangouts: it's free. I use Skype still only because I have used it for longer than Google Voice has been around, but I'd give it a shot now before Skype. Here is the iPhone/iOS tutorial:

https://support.google.com/voice/answer/3437917?hl=en

I'm not sure how this would interact with your existing AT&T number, though - but that path with Skype is more clear to me.

Posted by
193 posts

I sure wish I was a little more techie than I am!! Compared to my husband, I'm a genius - but to my teen - I can't compare.

I don't necessarily plan on using my phone a lot, but I own a business and have a disabled son - both require I have accessibility of some sort (although I have very trusted people in place for both - but I never know).

The T-Mobile option has more appeal than individual SIM cards as we will travel through 7 countries - but I also don't really have the extra time to go open and then close a new phone account for a 16/17 day trip.

I imagine I'll spend some time on the phone with AT&T (just about as painful as a dentist appointment) and find out what I'm looking at. I'd like to post pictures and videos of our kids performing in Europe (music trip) but I can always do that when I get home - except that never is easy since we come back to work, kids, reality, etc.

I think we will give our daughter & nephew the Eurobuzz phone so we can touch base when they go on group events that we don't do - just in case we need to connect.

I'm probably really over-thinking all these things. We've already paid a ridiculous amount of money for this trip, what's $400 or $500 more in phone fees :(

Posted by
4686 posts

OK, simplify: Get your teenager to setup a Google Voice account for you then show you how to use Google Hangouts to make free calls (will work the same in the US as here). That will give you a US phone number you can use to make free calls in Europe over WiFi using Google Hangouts.

Meanwhile, sign up for AT&T's international calling plan - $1/per minute so you might not use it for more than the occasional calls; when you get back to WiFi, use Google Voice/Google Hangouts for longer, free calls home.

Posted by
193 posts

I will give her these exact directions and see if between eye rolls she can set me up!! Thanks!! A lot of this is like trying to read Latin to me! I'll give the teen a job for her helpless parents!! Thank you!!

Posted by
30932 posts

advocate,

As you have to be accessible for both your business and disabled son (and especially since you're not a "techie"), I wouldn't complicate things with Skype, Google Voice or whatever. The easiest and simplest way for people to reach you while you're travelling is simply to dial your normal phone number. The network will find you where ever you are.

If you use the phone sparingly for voice calls and rely on text messages most of the time, it should be fairly cost effective. As mentioned in a previous reply, the AT&T plan can be cancelled when you get home. There is one potential issue with that approach however - it's important to tell all your contacts NOT to call you during your trip unless it's absolutely necessary, as you will be paying for each incoming call.

I don't recall if you mentioned what type of phone you're using. If it's a Smartphone, it's important to minimize data roaming by keeping "cellular data" switched "off", as that can be very expensive.

Posted by
193 posts

Thanks, Ken. Yes, I'll have to remember the cellular data function on my iPhone. I seem to recall reading on this site that if the phone is powered off, that feature can come back on when powering up. I'll be sure to watch for that!!

Posted by
193 posts

I spent some time going through my phone (iPhone 5) to get re-familiar with the options I don't use regularly. I reset my data stats on 5/30, and then turned off all cellular data and only had wifi available (which is fine at home) to see what my data usage might look like. I don't track it every month on the AT&T bill; we have 5 different phones/devices on the account and I usually just look at how many texts my daughter sends in a month vs. me, her dad, the others on our plan. That's always interesting!

Anyhow, we were out shopping yesterday to get (yet) more stuff for this trip and I turned the cellular data back on. I just looked and I'm at 7.9MB now.

I think the $30 AT&T plan gives 120MB, plus unlimited texting, and $1 phone calls. My daughter's friends' mom told me she bought her daughter the $120 plan - I don't recall the data amount but her calls are maybe 35-cents a minute with that plan. I may end up somewhere in the middle.

I'm about ready to log on and decide on the plans we will use. Overall, it does seem to make more sense to use the phone I have, add an international plan, and not go through the extra steps and expenses of the unlocked phone & T-Mobile plan.

This week we will also test out Skype & Viber and save photos to the computer to make room for new ones. Thanks again for all your tips & advice!

Posted by
20599 posts

...if the phone is powered off, that feature can come back on when powering up.....

We have iphone 6s with Verizon. Cell data stays off once it is switch off regardless of the phones being powder on and off. Just back from England/France. We had the phones set up for free by Verizon to accept and send texts. It worked well for the three weeks we were there.

Posted by
193 posts

Update on my phone status - decided to upgrade with AT&T and got the iPhone 6 Plus. I also got the international plan that automatically expires in one month - went with the biggest bundle, so phone calls will be $0.35/min. I got the 64GB phone, so I've decided (I think) not to take my iPad mini.

I've downloaded all the apps mentioned above and will see if I like any of them as options vs the free SMS texting with the AT&T plan; I have 800MB of data - but when they did a conversion of my data use - it's not enough so I will need to try and use wifi wherever I can.

I was able to select the start date for my international plan for my trip start date (this Friday - fingers crossed) and I can cancel it if needed. The last few days have been iffy with my dad in hospital- but I think I'm going to be able to go. He really would hate it if I stayed home - but it's been one of those things that change day to day since last Friday - but as of yesterday, he was looking better so I'm a bit more optimistic today.

Posted by
3696 posts

I think you will be so much happier just using the phone you have. You can get familiar with it, and the calls come and go the same as at home. Also texting is so easy for use from Europe. I always just use my AT&T phone on the lowest price plan. I don't do many phone calls, but the last one I had it was $1 a min, but the texting was outgoing 50 and incoming free... for $10 for the trip. I had cellular data off, and used an offline maps program. Cheap, easy, and I knew I could always get emergency calls.

Posted by
300 posts

Just remember: if you do wind up signing up for T-Mobile (if you get a new phone), you want a POST-PAID ("normal") cell phone service with T-Mobile, not PRE-PAID. That is, you sign up for new service like you are going to pay a monthly fee to T-Mobile, just like you do now with AT&T, but once you get back from Europe, you have to cancel the plan to avoid paying the next month's service.
And the name of the T-Mobile plan you would want is "Simple Choice." It's a domestic calling plan that includes the international roaming you want.

Good advice; I'll add that you don't want the "No Credit Check" option. The T-Mobile store offered this to me because I didn't buy a phone through them. They and I didn't realize that the low-cost international roaming isn't available on the No Credit Check plan. Luckily I discovered it in time to convert my account to the right type

You want 'Postpaid with Credit Check'.